Thursday, May 20, 2010

Thrifty Planting Tips

I have a little secret. Actually, a big secret? Do you ever wonder how you can cut down on the amount of soil you use in your planted pots? Or, do you ever put too much soil in your clay pots that you can barely move them? Problem solved.

Simply add styrofoam pieces (aka: packaging peanuts) to the bottom of the pot. I've been doing this little secret for years. Okay, maybe not YEARS, but definitely three houses ago. It works, trust me. What's not to love about making spring planting a little less expensive and more thrifty! I heart thrifty ideas. Not only will the styrofoam helps decrease your soil costs, it also helps with air flow to decrease mold and mildew from over watering.

Happy thrifty planting to you!

To find out more information why soil itself contacts little styrofoam balls, check out this gardening site.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Creative Cupcake Toppers

With the summer months quickly approaching, birthdays and picnics become more frequent. An easy dessert (and kid approved as well) is the classic cupcake. But, aren't we all sick and tired of the "classic" cupcake with just frosting? Why not jazz it up a little bit -- and for FREE, too! These are supplies you probably have sitting in your craft cabinet and kitchen.

What you'll need:
cake mix, premade frosting, powdered sugar, food coloring, toothpicks, cupcake liners, cake decorating tips, colorful card stock paper (scrap paper, scrapbook paper, construction paper, etc), stickers, scissors.

Make cupcakes according to directions. Bake and cool. For the frosting, use premade frosting. Spoon into separate bowl. Add food coloring to desired color. To make frosting thicker (it will hold the shape on cupcakes) add powdered sugar. For one tub of frosting, about 1/2 cup or more for desired consistency. For my cupcakes, I used Wilton cake supplies and a #16 decorator tip. Frost cupcakes.

Now, for the special part that turns ordinary into extraordinary. The cupcake topper. Using your scraps of paper, lightly place sticker over the top. Cut around sticker. Slide toothpick under sticker. Press firmly on sticker.

Take your cupcake topper and place in cupcakes. Enjoy!

Want to know the best part of this craft idea? It's multifunctional. Creative cupcake toppers can be changed and mixed and matched according to the occasion or the event. Maybe a Dora the Explorer Birthday Party with Dora stickers? How about zoo animals? And for summer picnics, add stickers with lady bugs, watermelon slices, lemons, flowers.

Easy, easy, easy! And, FREE!

(If you're wondering how I came about the Dr. Seuss theme ... one of my friends watched my daughter today for a few hours and it was her son's birthday. For a birthday surprise and a thank you, I decided to use Dr. Seuss and Cat and The Hat Stickers -- the little boys' favorite).

I'm partying with: The Shabby Nest, It's So Very Cheri, The Persimmon Perch, Life as Lori, Beyond the Picket Fence, Somewhat Simple, Fireflies and Jellybeans, Poppies at Play, Finding Fabulous, Fun to Craft, A Few of My Favorite Things

Sunday, May 9, 2010

A Gift From The Heart

First of all, Happy Mother's Day to all the moms out there. Whether you're a mom to three, a new mom, an experienced mom, a mother to pets or simply have a mom -- to all women out there -- enjoy your special day!

Secondly, what a better way to celebrate the important women in our life than with a special gift from the heart. Isn't it mostly true that a handmade gift is the best gift? It comes all out of love every single time.

Now, one of my favorite gifts to share with a mother, a special friend (or really anyone you love) ... drum roll ... is my "Many Memories" scrapbook.

The "Many Memories" scrapbook is easy, easy, easy. Make this gift for a mother/friend/etc for her birthday, a special occassion or an anniversary. I start by compiling a list of email address, facebook profiles, snail mail addresses, etc. You have to do this in a sneaky way so your gift receiver does not to find out. Next, contact as many people as you can and let them know you are making a special memory book for your mom (or another recipient, but we'll say mom in honor of Mother's Day) and you need their help! You'd like them to help you by writing a special letter, sending photos, sharing a funny story, a quote or anything that reminds them of your mom. They can send it to you via email or mail. It's as easy as that! Have people your mom knows submit "memories" for a special book.

Once everything (pictures, cards, stories, memories, quotes, birthday wishes, etc) has been collected, compile everything into a scrapbook!

Easy, easy, easy. And, fun, too! Plus, you might learn a thing or two about your mother's past you didn't know ;) that will leave you laughing and smiling about how special she truly is.

Here's a preview and a few helpful tips and ideas on how to format your "Many Memories" scrapbook.

The book --- just a simple scrapbook.

I actually made this book for my mother-in-laws 50th birthday and decided as an extra special touch, I'd find a "Remember When" book for her to look at and remember how much things have changed in 50 years.

Two-page spreads work great for long letters and several photo submissions.

Snail mail cards and homemade letters.

Pictures, quotes, funny stories - and tons of stickers (snag them at Michael's or Joanns 50% ahead of time).

This "Many Memories" book is definitely a gift from the heart and will surely bring your mother tears, laughter, and joy.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Saturday Morning Finds

I went thrift sailing last weekend. Yes, garage "sailing" as I like to call it because you almost sail from house to house, roughing the high waters, the rising sun, and the birds above -- all to find that great bargain.

Having just really started to get into the bargain aspect of shopping, especially garage sales, I must say I was very pleasantly surprised with my finds. In fact, I was pleasantly surprised enough that I'm actually going back out again this weekend. :)

A few of my bargain finds.

A huge red mirror. Not sure what I'm going to do with this yet, but I have a few plans brewing.

A beautiful black stand to sit in the corner of my kitchen, temporarily, until I can find the perfect hutch or baker's rack.

And, my favorite finds of the day. Pottery Barn and Crate and Barrel style decorations that fit perfectly with our existing decor.

Monday, May 3, 2010

My Favorite Kitchen Utensil

This special utensil is unique in it's own way. In fact, not too many people know about this utensil, let alone have one in their kitchen utensil drawer. What is this special tool - it's a strawberry masher - and an antique one as well. In fact, this utensil came from an antique store (thanks to my dad) and had a price tag of $20 after a little negotiating. Definitely not a bargain, but worth every.single.penny. Seriously, once you've used on of these, it will be your favorite summer kitchen utensil as well.

Prior to living in California, I always love strawberries. However, nothing screams freshness like being close to the source and having strawberry fields right in your own local town. Thus, the reason why strawberries have become a staple ingredient in our diet these days. They are ripe, juicy and oh-so-delicious.

Now ... onto my favorite utensil. Here's what the strawberry masher looks like.

Here's how you simply make strawberry shortcake. Yum-O! Start with fresh, plump strawberries.


Mashed strawberries. Perfect every time. Natural strawberries with no added sugar.

Add a shortcake and a dollop of whipped cream. Serve chilled and enjoy.

And, best of all. This utensil can be used for peaches, berries, strawberries, etc. It's the perfect compliment to a hot summer day.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Pottery Barn Inspired Pedestal Table

From drab to fab in a matter of days. I found this beauty (please see photo below) on craigslist. It was listed for $50. I had a feeling I would be able to snag this 'beauty' for less than asking price and was thrilled when the owners accepted my $30 offer.

A steal of a deal.
Solid wood ... check.
No chips or cracks ... check.
Included large leaf for table ... check check.

I've been dreaming of a pedestal table for awhile now, I just couldn't find the right price. Thank you craigslist for helping me find my bargain!

With my $30 table on hand, I was ready to begin! This is 'kind of' what I had in mind. Something like this ...

or this ...

because, as usual, what's not to love about Pottery Barn and the looks they create. I can usually be found drooling over their catalogues and trying to dream up new ideas on how to get the PB look for a fraction of a cost.

So ................... with sander in hand, I began sanding out the dried cherrios and left over food from the table.

After sanding, I used the air compressor to blow off all the dust, then wiped clean with a tack cloth.

Armed with my mini roller and black paint/primer combination, I was ready to begin painting this table a few coats of paint.

A few coats later. Finished!

As for my kitchen chairs, I'm almost embarrased to admit what I did for my chairs. I lightly sanded them down with a 200 grit sandpaper, wiped clean and then spray painted. Yes, like the kind of spray paint you buy from a can. I went through 4 cans. These were chairs I already had and was using with my old kitchen table. They were FREE so I couldn't complain to much.

The results!

You might be wondering why such a dark kitchen and why black? First of all, our appliances are stainless and black and our granite is speckled with black. I'm definitely a matchy-matchy type of person and felt black would suit our house best. Plus, for a $30 dollar table, I figured if it didn't look great, I could always start over or try something else. I guess I just have a thing for dark cherry wood and black right now. That's half the fun of DIY'ing and decorating ~ is redoing it when you get sick of it.

I still have a long way to go in our kitchen with decorating, tile backsplash, etc. Baby steps, I keep reminding myself.

This post is linked to: The Shabby Nest, Finding Fabulous, A Few of my Favorite Things, It's Fun to Craft

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

My 1st "Feature"

After a long 2 hour nap this afternoon (I know ... lazy bones while my daughter was napping) I have no desire to sleep. The house is clean, everything is in order for tomorrow so I decided to sit down with my laptop and start a new blog about my latest project. What better way to use my time than with a new blog, right? So a blogging I began.

However, I became slightly distracted as I realized I had a new follower and a new comment in my inbox telling me I was going to be featured on Kristi's blog - The Speckled Dog.

Geesh, was I excited! This is my very first feature on another blog. Make sure you check out my feature and the rest of Kristi's favorite DIY projects from the week. Check them out here "The Speckled Dog." Thanks Kristi, you made my day!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Cream Puffs

It's been raining, gloomy and pretty cold here in California this week so I thought I'd spruce up my blog and post about one of my favorite desserts - cream puffs! Can you tell I'm dreaming of summer entertaining already?

This is an easy recipe for all to enjoy. Plus, cream puffs can be decorated, the filling can be changed, and toppings can be added. You will definitely have a chance to bring out the inner pastry chef in you with this recipe.

First of all, the recipe, which comes from Better Homes and Gardens Special Edition Breast Cancer Cookbook. This is probably one of my favorite cookbooks right now and has become a staple in everyday cooking lately. Plus, purchasing this book a few years ago was helping benefit a great cause as well. It was truly a win-win.

Cream Puffs
Prep: 30 minutes, Cool: 10 minutes, Bake: 30 minutes, Oven: 400'F, Makes: 12 cream puffs

1 cup water
1/2 cup butter
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 cup all-purpose flour
4 eggs
3 cups whipping cream, pudding, or ice cream
Powdered sugar (optional)

1. In a medium saucepan combine water, butter, and salt. Bring to boiling. Add flour all at once, stirring vigorously. Cook and stir until mixture forms a ball. Remove from heat. Cool for 10 minutes. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well with a wooden spoon after each addition.

2. Drop 12 heapting tablespoons of dough onto a greased baking sheet. Bake in a 400 degree oven for 30 to 35 minutes or until golden. Transfer cream puffs to a wire rack; cool.

3. Cut tops from puffs; remove soft dough from inside. Filled with whipped cream or desired filling. Replace tops. If desired, sift powdered sugar over the top, add swirls of chocolate syrup, or any added garnish you wish.

For an easy filling inside the cream puff, I actually use a few scoops of vanilla bean ice cream. It's an easy filler with an amazing taste, which is shown below.

As an extra garnish, you can also add swirls of chocolate syrup on the top similar to what an eclair would look like.

Picture courtesy of My Recipes.

Added bonus: You can also use this recipe for eclairs. Prepare as above, except spoon dough into a decorating bag fitting with a large plain round tip (about 1/2-inch opening). Pipe 12 strips of dough, 3 inches apart, onto a greased baking sheet, making each strip 4 inches long, 1 inch wide, and 3/4 inch high. Bake, cool, and split as in steps 2 and 3. Fill eclairs with whipped cream or pudding. Frost with chocolate glaze.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Doormat Wall Art

Simply put, I used a doormat to make art for my walls. Yes, a rubber doormat from Lowe's. It was simple, easy, and I love the finished results.

About a year ago, I came across an article in my "Lowe's Creative Ideas" magazine about this project. I fell in love and thought, "I must add this to my to-do list."

You may have seen this project on other blogging websites, as well, but I originally credit this project idea to Lowe's. I followed their directions in what to purchase, color options, size, etc.

1. Ask a Lowe’s employee (or in my case, my darling husband) to cut each 1 x 12 x 6 board in half, creating four approximately 3-foot-long boards.

2. Sand the boards, and wipe clean. Wearing gloves, apply stain to the boards following the manufacturer’s instructions. Let dry, and repeat with additional coats if needed to achieve the desired finish. Allow to dry completely.

I even lucked out on my Miniwax stain to score and extra bargain. I already had an extra can sitting on my paint shelf so I saved myself a few extra bucks.

After allowing the stain to dry completely, I added an extra step in here (which differs from Lowe's) and actually used blue painter's tape to tape off the areas I did not want spray paint, such as the sides and directly along the edge. I wanted to make sure the top and bottom had a straight edge and the sides were paint free. The tape worked perfectly, but definitely was a little difficult to get straight! It took me a few times.

3. Cover a flat work surface with a drop cloth, and place two of the boards side by side. Position the doormat face up and centered on the boards. Use painter’s tape to cover any exposed areas outside the border of the mat, including the boards’ side edges.

4. Apply a coat of spray primer to the boards through the mat, spraying from straight above. Then apply two or three light coats of spray paint. Note: Heavy coats of paint will blur the stencil design. Allow each coat to dry.

5. Remove the doormat, and repeat Steps 3–4 for the remaining two boards.

I must admit, I was most nervous about Step 5 - removing the doormat. There was a little bit of anxiety and uncertainty of whether or not the spray paint bled or didn't spray through enough.

6. Spray the boards with clear polyurethane. Allow to dry. Hang the boards using picture hangers and appropriate hardware for your wall type.

Voila ~ the finished results!

A few extra tips from blogland.
- Do not use spray paint as the background color and then try to use white spray paint over the doormat. It will bleed.
- Make sure you do not coat the stain to thick or make sure you wipe stain completely. During my last coat of stain, I used a saturated rag to clean up the residue leaving too much stain on the boards. A tacky, sticky board remained. I was bummed. However, a little paint thinner on a rag cleaned it right up and I didn't even need to re-stain.
- Do thin, light coats of white spray paint. It's more effective and will lead to less bleeding of the spray paint.

Good luck!!!!!

This post is linked to:
DIY Show Off, Between Naps on the Porch, Persimmon Perch, It's So Very Cheri.